Framework unveiled for climate resilient and low carbon health systems

Health services around the world must play their part in tackling the threat of climate change, according to new guidance published yesterday.

The framework for climate resilience and creating low carbon health systems has been published by the World Health Organization ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (COP-28).

Designed to enhance the resilience of health systems and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help safeguard the health of communities worldwide, the framework emphasises the optimisation of resource use and implementing strategies to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said: “Around the world, health systems are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but they also contribute to it.

“We therefore have a dual responsibility to build health systems that can withstand climate-related shocks, while at the same time reducing their carbon footprint. This framework gives countries a roadmap for doing just that.”

It was developed following a request by ministers of health from more than 75 countries for WHO support. These countries joined the Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health (ATACH) COP-26 in November 2021. The United Kingdom and WHO then formally established ATACH in June 2022.

WHO says the framework presents an opportunity for the health sector to lead by example by reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions, which are now responsible for almost 5% of the global total, while improving quality of care.

The framework presents different pathways for health systems to strengthen their climate resilience and decarbonise depending on their overall performance, levels of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change and health capacity.

Among the key objectives are: strengthening health system functions for climate resilience and low carbon health; supporting the development of specific interventions for climate risk reduction and emissions reduction; and defining roles and responsibilities for health decision-makers in climate resilience.

WHO says the framework extends beyond the realm of health care because by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing the resilience of health systems, it is contributing to the broader objectives of universal health coverage, global health security and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

COP-28, which takes place from 30 November until 12 December in United Arab Emirates, will also feature a dedicated Health Day within the Conference of Parties.


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